OBJECTIVES: Qualitative research designs are being used increasingly in dental research. This paper describes the extent and range of dental research in which qualitative methods have been employed as well as the techniques of data collection and analysis preferred by dental researchers. METHODS: A scoping review was conducted to locate studies published in dental journals, which reported the use of qualitative methods. Data concerning the focus of the research and the reported qualitative techniques were extracted. RESULTS: Studies included in the review totalled 197. The majority of qualitative research captured in this scoping study focussed on three main areas: dental education, professional dental and dental educators' activities and experiences and the patient/public perceptions. Interviews and focus group discussions were the most commonly selected techniques for data collection. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of the studies included in the scoping review had a focus on education of dental professionals the activities of dental professionals or the reported perceptions of or experiences with dental services by patients or members of the public. Little research was located, which explored peoples' personal experience of dental conditions. Research reported in dental publications has a heavy bias towards the use of focus groups and interview data collection techniques.